In 1861, at the outbreak of the American Civil War, Maryland was a slave state. There were many Confederate sympathizers in the state. There was a small chance that, left to its own devices, Maryland might have secede from the Union.
But the capital of the United States government lay on the southern edge of Maryland, so President Lincoln took no chances. For much of the war, Maryland would be occupied by Federal forces deployed to fight the Confederacy in Virginia.
It would be an ugly war, as Maryland would discover early on. One of the first outbreaks of violence was a riot in Baltimore on April 19, 1861–just a week after the Battle of Fort Sumter. Federal troops and pro-Confederate Marylanders brawled. Several of those Marylanders were killed.
Among the fatalities was a friend of James Ryder Randall, a journalist who would later join the Confederate Navy. In grief and anger over his loss, Randall wrote the song “Maryland, My Maryland.” It includes this passage:
The Old Line’s bugle, fife, and drum,
She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb-
Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!
She breathes! she burns! she’ll come! she’ll come!
Maryland! My Maryland!
Sen. Robert Cassilly, a Republican, said it was wrong to try to eliminate parts of the state’s history.
“Our song doesn’t belong to the Confederacy. It belongs to us,” he said.
Cassilly said the song celebrates the courage of people who are willing to stand up and fight for what they believe in, even if they turn out to be on the wrong side of history.
“It is what it is, but we learn from history, we learn from each other and we build upon it, so the idea that we’re trying to excise our history is just, I don’t think that’s America,” Cassilly said. “That’s not what we’re about.” […]
The song calls for Maryland to secede from the Union — at a time when Maryland residents sympathized with the Confederacy. The song begins with a hostile reference to Lincoln, who brought troops through Baltimore to protect Washington: “The despot’s heel is on thy shore, Maryland! His torch is at thy temple door, Maryland!”
-via Marginal Revolution